Journalist Jere Van Dyk stopped by the Big Think offices today to recount his gripping tale of survival after being captured and imprisoned by the Taliban in 2008. Van Dyk, an expert on Afghan history and culture, also offered some cautionary advice to General Petraeus as he assumes leadership of the Afghanistan War. Most importantly, he said, the U.S. must more clearly define its goals in Afghanistan. He also discussed the most important things people should know about the region, explained the differences between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and argued that Osama bin Laden could not still be hiding in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Van Dyk believes that America's counterinsurgency policy could potentially work as a long-term strategy, but he said that the Obama administration's handling of the war is doing little to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.
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